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Rental homes are seen under construction on Oct. 17, 2022, in Castle Rock. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

A bill that would have lifted a 40-year prohibition on Colorado cities and counties imposing rent control in their communities was rejected by a Democratic-majority state Senate committee Tuesday evening. 

Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, joined three Republicans on the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee in voting against House Bill 1115, which failed 3-4. Roberts said he feels rent control measures could stifle the development of more housing and thus hurt affordability efforts.

“We need to do more of what we have been doing of incentivizing development, helping communities, helping nonprofit home builders, helping low-income people get into affordable rentals and affordable home ownership,” he said. “I just feel like this bill might unnecessarily or unintentionally harm the work we’ve been doing.”

The measure’s prospects were murky from the beginning, with Gov. Jared Polis indicating he would veto legislation allowing local rent control policies. The governor has instead sought to solve Colorado’s affordable housing crisis by increasing supply. 

Republicans at the Capitol were universally opposed to the measure. Several House Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the measure when it was debated on the House floor, indicating that the policy wasn’t universally liked even among Democrats. 

Economists have found that rent control can at times worsen affordability in cities. But proponents of the measure saw it as a key way to prevent runaway housing costs from getting worse in Colorado, as well as a tool to prevent people from being pushed out of their neighborhoods by rising prices.

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Rep. Javier Mabrey, a Denver Democrat and a prime sponsor of the bill, vowed to try again next year.

“We will be back and we will win,” Mabrey said on Twitter in the hours after the measure failed.

The other lead sponsors of the bill were Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs, and Sen. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver. 

During a February committee hearing, Mabrey amended the measure to try to address his colleagues’ concerns about the bill. 

One amendment required that any city or county enacting rent control must allow rent increases of at least 3 percentage points more than the rate of inflation. Local governments would have also been required to allow “reasonable increases” to account for renovations.

Another amendment made exceptions for new developments, exempting buildings less than 15 years old from all rent control measures. 

In his closing comments Tuesday night in the Housing and Local Government Committee, Rodriguez said he has sympathy for how the policy would impact landlords with only a few properties.

“But we’re in a world now where investors are buying up properties and manipulating the market. … I’m not sure this bill is going to hurt,” he said. “This is about keeping people housed.” 

The bill, which would have repealed a 1981 statewide ban on local rent control policies, was one of several measures introduced this session to address the cost of housing in Colorado. The bills have had mixed success. 

For instance, Senate Bill 213, the governor’s major land-use measure, was expected to be gutted Wednesday morning and no longer include zoning requirements for any Colorado municipality. It will instead form a panel to study affordability needs and plans.

Roberts was also the key vote for the governor’s land-use bill last week, ultimately voting in the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee to advance the measure after the bill was dramatically pared back to remove many requirements for resort communities like the ones he represents.

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Elliott Wenzler

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community Media. She has won awards for her...